Tuesday, 22 April 2014

'Marking'- A short story by MJB Saunders


Mrs Pale eventually exited the classroom after a long day. The final bell had rung and all that remained were bits of paper and forgotten homework assignments on ink-stained tables. She hurriedly paced over to the staff room where she had left her marking schemes. Her heels echoed along the corridor which was a plain warning sign to all co-workers and students that she was in a hurry.

Although she already knew how to mark the work, things were different there than her previous employers. Things changed very rapidly. She never knew why she moved so much. It was never by force, it was her own will. Maybe it was the kids. They were different at every school she went to. Some were too smart, even for her. Some were too cocky, some were too rude, some were nice but too difficult to explain to. It didn't matter after all. As long as it looked like she was doing a good job well. (Which wasn't going so well as over half the students in her classes had forgotten their homework. It wasn't even that hard.)

So much marking to do. I just want to relax. I'm stuck here now. There's nowhere else to go. Sure I could go and work in a cafe or restaurant, but I couldn't live like that knowing I've got all the qualifications she thought to herself as she retrieved her marking scheme from her pigeon hole. Oh shhhugar. This is from the last unit. She stressed. The last unit had taken ages with the last marking scheme. She was still growing comfortable with it, but by then, the next unit had crept in. To her, all English classes should be the same. No stupid marking schemes, no different rules or exceptions to students faking anger issues, no slack registrations. Registrations were the worst. Other teachers just simply didn't bother with it. That meant students could skip classes as much as they pleased and the attendance office wouldn't bat an eyelid.

Mrs Pale was good with the registers. She was good with names too, that gave her the advantage when a student pretended they were there after all. She often wished for a built-in lie detector. Sometimes the excuses for missing homework were just too extraordinary to be lies, but she had to judge them as if she were in the students shoes. She remembered being young though. One time her younger brother dropped catnip on her homework and the cat carried it to the roof. Then it rained and the homework was destroyed. That was true, but she got double detention for not only failing to hand in work, but for 'making up something so bizarre.'

"Miss?" a young girl's voice called into the staff room as Mrs Pale was about to screw up the old marking scheme and do something awful with it.
"Yes?" she stepped out with a forced-sweet smile.
"My bus hasn't arrived yet. I think I missed the last one. Do you know where I can get hold of a phone?" the girl asked.
"Don't you have one? I think the office is closed..."
"Mr Price confiscated mine today and he left early." the girl sighed.
Mrs Pale thought briefly about giving the poor girl a lift home. Would that be violating some rule? She thought to herself briefly. Then she decided she would only do so if the girl asked.
"I have a phone, hold on..." Mrs Pale rummaged around her rucksack for her old beat-up brick. She took her time searching. She almost didn't want to find it. It was an embarrassing piece of technology. "Here it is." she held it out. The girl gave a dry, teenage stare at it. "I can type in the number if you want?" Mrs Pale asked.
"No, no. It's cool." the girl shook her head with the lack of trust in a teacher students have. Her fingers tapped away at the phone and then it started calling.

"Dad? It's me... Charlotte... Can you give me a lift? Never mind why... I'll tell you later... Outside school... Yeah, sure you too... Bye." the girl hung up. "He's picking me up in a bit. Thank you." the girl dismissed her and turned away.
"Charlotte? Are there any other members of staff around?" Mrs Pale asked.
"What? Teachers? Nope."

Great. I've got to be the one that waits to make sure she gets picked up. I'm going to be late for... She paused her thinking. I'm not going to be late for anything. She realised as she had felt hurried since the last bell had rung. Mrs Pale slowly exhaled into her usual self. She was Sarah again. But then Mrs Pale came storming back as she remembered I've got so much marking to do.

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